The Little Things

There are always little things your significant other does, which elicit an uncontrollable response in your body.

They are tiny things, things that no other person outside your bubble would ever understand, or react to. Things that are yours alone…

Like the way you can tell which footsteps are his in a crowded room.
The way you can sense that he’s coming up behind you to rest one hand on your shoulder as the other stretches out to shake that of the person who has just introduced himself to you at the party.
Or sometimes it’s the sight of his keys in the change bowl when you come home which causes your heart to flutter and skip a couple of beats.
What about the way that you know exactly how he is going to react to something based solely on the manner in which he has removed his shoes for the afternoon?

For some of us, these things bring warmth and love and gentle sunshine smiles that fill up all our corners.

For some of us, these things are catalysts that elicit the fight or flight response. They fill you with fear – Fear of the known, but unpredictable. The fear of his raised voice, or that quiet, cold one he gets when he pierces you with his eyes. The dread that fills you when he places his hand on your shoulder while he shakes the hand of that man who introduced himself to you at the party.

… the fear of a man introducing himself to you at a party.

You ignore them, at first. If you do mention them, you are embarrassed to be informed that you merely overreacted. Sometimes this news is given to you with an indulgent smile and a little pat on the head as your significant other walks out of the room, silently letting you know that the conversation is over.

So you shrink away from the world. Away from the people asking the odd question here and there – Are you okay? You’re very quiet tonight. Is Significant Other okay? He seems a little cranky. You run out of excuses and cover stories quicker than you’d suspect.

So you shrink into your bubble with him, where you can somewhat control the environment to limit the things that cause his hand to ball into a fist and find that soft spot just to the left of your spine.

Your voice becomes small and your vocabulary shrinks to “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. You ask for permission to read your book, to shower, to go to your family’s house or a friend’s birthday. Your every move and every thought, handed to him in the hope that by asking for his permission, you will not only be allowed to apply for a new job but will be rewarded for your obesiance.

You think about leaving. You do. It crosses your mind a lot, but then you hear his gentle arguments, explaining why you deserved it. You feel his fingers brushing your hair back from your face, the tendrils stuck to your wet cheeks, cold ropes of hair being tucked behind your ears as he whispers all the ways in which you wronged him, and do you understand now? Do you understand what your actions did to his feelings? The way you confuse him? You can be so loving sometimes, and then you disrespect him like that. Or sometimes you just imagined it, you must have been having a different conversation with a different person because that’s not what was said in the one you had with him.

You stop listening to any voices who try to convince you to end it. You don’t have the energy to listen to them, your energy is all gone now, it is constantly being used to predict his next outburst, to tiptoe through your own life and make as few ripples as possible to mark your passage.

Eventually you can’t even hear your own voice, begging. You hear it through his ears where it has become an ugly whine, a pathetic whimper from a useless, weak, ugly woman who will never amount to anything.

It is by this point that nothing in his behaviour shocks you anymore. You are used to the fear that fills you when he does something nice for you. You know that you will have to pay for it one way or another. You are used to him dangling carrots of hope before your eyes and the enjoyment he gets when he takes them away from you. You are used to your place in the world, now, curled at his feet, covered in dirt, ready for the kicking.

You are used to feeling like a spider, stuck to a tiny strand of web, floating on the whim of a breeze with no idea where you are going to land or what you are going to be faced with when you get there.

And you don’t deserve anything better.

You don’t even remember the girl who once knew she deserved better. You don’t think of her because, like everyone, she is judging you and finding you wanting.

And still, you can pick the sound of his footsteps in a crowd. Your heart still skips a beat when you return home to see his keys in the bowl or his shoes lined against the wall. Only now, your heart is always hammering, your breath always catching in your throat, and the only reason you now use the word “please” is to place it before the words “I’m sorry, don’t hurt me”.

The world outside knows there are troubles. They know he can be a little bit cranky. That he is a little stingy with money, or that he doesn’t like you to go out without him, but the world doesn’t know that every time you feel him lift the covers to climb in beside you, your entire body goes rigid, tense and fills with a blind, raging hatred that finds you clenching your fists and digging your fingernails into your palms to give some kind of voice to the invisible, voiceless pain you feel at not just losing your soul to the whims of another, but handing it over, willingly, to gutlessly save yourself from whatever may happen next.

It wasn’t always like that, you know? That’s what we always say when asked why we stayed.

Because it didn’t start that way.
It started with The Little Things. 

Advertisements

Sharing, Relationships and Facebook’s destruction of traditional human behaviour.

Sharing.
It’s a word that is now more synonymous with self-marketing on social media platforms, rather than the sentiment of the act itself.

I come from a group of people who began their internet use in the early to mid 90’s.
I spent most of my time from 1995 to 2001 on mIRC, chatting with my group of likeminded friends and occasionally physically meeting up with them for awkward fun times in the line outside HMV, waiting for Marilyn Manson’s signature.

I had an opendiary from the age of 16, a livejournal from the age of 18, and a myspace, about a year or so before Facebook became the juggernaut that it now is. “Sharing” is something I’ve done since the internet first entered my world.

All of these online hangouts cultivated a genuine sense of community, of togetherness, rather than the self-marketing narcissism that we now encounter on Facebook. Behaviour I am guilty of displaying on a daily basis.

Until Facebook, the internet felt fairly safe. Small, yet full of possibility. It felt like the things you said, the pictures you posted – all of that was yours. It was under your control. And it was very easy for you to see who had access to view such things. There was a sense of fairness and transparency that doesn’t seem to exist anymore – not just on the internet, but in the world in general.

Everything is so tangled up in hidden terms and conditions, or language so convoluted that you need a degree in Contract Law to understand even the most basic transactions. I think most can be summed up as such: “You, the consumer, are getting screwed, and paying for that privelege”.

In Facebook and Google’s case, you, the user, are not the consumer, you are in fact, the product, which means that Facebook only gives enough of a shit about you and your rights to keep you using their service, so they can keep selling your behaviour to marketing companies.

Fine. They exist to make money, like any other corporation, and they haven’t exactly lied about the fact that it’s you who makes them their money. It is what it is in this day and age.

My problem with Facebook is what its dominance of society has done to people, and is doing to entire generations of people who know no other way of life.

Around two or more years ago, a very good friend of mine decided to delete her Facebook. Her reasons behind it have always stuck with me.

“I realised I was using my friends as my own personal Entertainment Roll”, she explained.

She found herself getting annoyed if a usually-funny friend was mediocre that day, or was posting something serious and depressing. She was seeing them not as her friends, but as objects that existed to entertain her in the way she expected them to, and she was not engaging in their lives, merely watching as an outsider, liking here, commenting there.

I’ve found myself either being treated in that manner, or absolutely hating people I barely know, based on their Facebook posts.

Beside that point, humans, naturally, as they age, lose friends. Our social circles shrink to allow us the mental, emotional and physical space to raise families and focus on careers, or whatever it is that is most important to us. Facebook forces us to acknowledge and interact with people we didn’t even interact with when they existed physically in our lives, even if the interaction is just a mental one – acknowledging that they are on your friends list, and whatever you say may offend them. You may not really care about offending them, but that anxiety is there, in the back of your mind.

The problem is that with such social pressure to add people, we end up sharing things with the people who would least like to know that information. People like our families and coworkers.

There are certainly solutions to the problems outlined above. We can always remove people from our friends list, and then deal with whatever social fallout may come of it. We can create filters, and spend hours arranging our friends and family members into groups, which will further allow us to pick and choose what we share with whom.

But all of that is a lot of work, and quite frankly, it takes up time that could be put to much more constructive uses than maintaining unnatural relationships simply because “that’s the way the world is, now”.

I can’t deny that Facebook has given me positive things, including wonderful connections with people I didn’t interact so much with in my former, face to face life with them.

Unfortunately, I just feel that Facebook is now taking more from me than it is giving, and it is encouraging me to take a back seat in regard to the manner in which I maintain my friendships.

Most of what it is taking, I’m not even entirely aware of.

Facebook’s ability to reach large numbers of people with your message is only as effective as the audience with which you share that message. I may have 370 Facebook friends, but unless I actively engage with each and every one of their personal pages on a constant basis, or vice versa, my posts will disappear from their NewsFeed. If you Facebook solely via your NewsFeed, you are only interacting with the same, relatively small number of people – people with which you are most likely to already share common opinions on most topics.

So what’s the point of sharing on Facebook?

Is it to get a pat on the back for being one of the first to show it to your friends? Is it to generate that warm feeling of “I’m right. A lot of people are agreeing with me”.

It certainly made all the sharing of ideas I did in the run up to our recent Federal Election rather pointless – everyone who actually spoke about it on my NewsFeed all had the same opinion as I did. I wanted to reach those who were indifferent, or those who wanted to vote Liberal. I wanted to be able to at least provoke thought or discussion. Unfortunately, most of the discussion that was provoked was “Facebook is not the place to discuss politics”, or “I wish the election would just be over, I’m sick of hearing about it”.

Thankfully, that same person who deleted her Facebook a few years ago is still very much a large part of my life. In fact, she is the person who taught me that true relationships are about engaging. They are about being honest, even when it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings. They’re about having integrity. And they’re about you, going out of your way to make the effort to share your life with someone else.

Facebook makes it easy for us to tell a whole bunch of people something. It generates conversation. But it’s all surface bullshit. It’s the narcissistic mask that the user wants to share with the world. It’s always on that person’s terms.

This morning, my non-Facebook friend sent another article she found interesting to the mailing list she has created of her friends and family with whom she frequently discusses well, anything, actually. That email generated real sharing amongst relative strangers who have come to know each other through our mutual friend’s stories, and through our own Reply Alls.

We come from very different backgrounds, with very different life experiences, which creates such a large picture of what are usually society’s most complex issues – everything from gender equality to mental health, fitness plans and pop culture. In that tiny little environment known as our inbox, we are throwing ideas, opinions and observations at each other, opening each others eyes to pieces of the puzzle that would never have occurred to us otherwise.

We are sharing knowledge and experience and it is exciting. It is meaningful. It engages our thoughts and interest for more time than it takes to click “like”, and I feel far more gratification from these email exchanges than I’ve ever felt from any response to my Facebook posts.

I’m not threatening to leave Facebook right now, though I am definitely considering it.

Besides, I’m too old to have 270 friends. As if I can be bothered writing that many “heartfelt” birthday messages when my NewsFeed prompts me to…

Lifelove

My lifelove, Sid, is the funniest person that I’ve ever met.

But I have no idea how to explain it.

Each time I try to give an example, it’s so tangled up in Simpsons allusions, in-jokes or something we’ve seen in our late night tumblr sessions that it would never make sense to anyone who isn’t me.

He has this ability to sit back, taking everything in, and when everyone else has exhausted their own jokes, softly, with the perfect delivery, Sid says one little sentence, one little joke, that has everyone in tears (mostly mum).

Back in the early days of the Sid and Bri Adventure Cruise, a mutual friend observed to me that Sid’s entire purpose in life is the happiness of whoever is around him. Friend, stranger, loved one, doesn’t matter, he just feels that its his responsibility to make sure everyone’s having a good time.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise the depth of that observation and witness countless acts of selflessness for the sole purpose of a smile.

Even at my most angry or annoyed, I still can’t lose my awareness of the fact that he is, simply put, a good man.

A lot has changed in the almost-six years we’ve been together, but every now and then, I am still struck in the same manner I was that night I looked into his eyes at the top of the ferris wheel, and for the first time in a very, very long time, knew what it was to be safe and in love with someone who was just as committed to my happiness as I was to theirs.

And every now and then I’m struck by the sudden awareness that for some unknown reason, this man still invites me to dance with him in the kitchen, while spaghetti cooks on the stove. He still looks for magic in the most mundane of life’s moments.

And that’s why he’s the man for me. I play with the invisible magic inside my mind, weaving stories out of sentences that snag and tear against my consciousness, forcing me to listen to them. Sid brings me back out into the real world, and shows me that it can also be as magical as the worlds I create in my mind, if I just give it a chance.

In more ways than one, I’d be lost without him.